Menopause, No More Periods

Hysterectomy: Leslie’s Story Part Two–The Surgery

When blog reader Leslie Lockwood told me she was scheduled for a hysterectomy, I asked her to record her experience for Friend for the Ride.  She’s presenting her story in three parts.  This post recounts the first hours and the first two weeks following the surgery. Thanks, Leslie!

I awoke from my surgery to the best news ever-the doctors had been able to do my entire surgery  laparoscopically and  had left the colon alone because there was no endometrial involvement there.  What a blessing!  I immediately knew my recovery would be much, much easier than I had anticipated.

I stayed in the hospital overnight, but most of us know that is pretty pointless because it is impossible to get any rest in a hospital at all.  (When I had my babies, I was one of those moms who actually sent them-I know, shocking-to the nursery so I could get some rest and even then I didn’t sleep.)

Anyhow, I was hooked to an IV, had a pulse thingy taped to my finger, had the things on my legs to keep blood flow and prevent blood clots, and had oxygen in my nose.  Basically, I could barely move because I was so connected, it made it impossible to do anything but lie still. Add to that the fact that people are constantly coming in to check your vitals, give you pain meds, and take your blood (that guy showed up at 4:00 am).

I went home about 24 hours after the surgery.  I was amazed at how good I felt, sore, but good.  I settled into my couch with my water bottle, pain meds, books/magazines, and the remote control.  Family, friends, and neighbors had signed up to bring meals (many of them at my pre-hysterectomy party), so we were all set.

I had been given advice by more people than I can count, to rest, to take it easy, and to accept any offer of help that came my way.  So although that really is hard to do, I listened to my doctor, my friends and my body and did pretty much nothing for two weeks.  It felt almost decadent to be lounging on my couch, watching Netflix, enjoying meals from friends*, playing with Pinterest and Facebook on my Ipad, and even napping while a friend tidied up my home and organized my Tupperware cupboard, but I did it.

Yesterday was my two week check up, and I think my “vacation on the couch” has paid off.  I feel great, my wounds have healed, and I am now allowed to drive again and resume most of my normal activities**.

My next check up is in four weeks and at that point, we will discuss things like how I am doing being on Estrogen (I am on a patch right now because I now have no ovaries) and if my endometrial pain has gone away (I still have sporadic pain in my left side but it could be phantom pain).

I can say now that I am feeling really good, almost back to normal.  I am glad to be on the other side of this surgery.  So far I have not grieved my uterus and ovaries at all.

I definitely won’t be missing the periods or the spotting I had for weeks at a time.  I am excited to plan my 25th anniversary beach vacation without having to check a calendar and cross my fingers and hope and pray that I won’t be bleeding at that time.  I truly feel a sense of freedom and excitement and I look to my post-hysterectomy future!

*My doctor had advised me not to eat too much.  It took me about a week to get my appetite back so I listened to him and just made sure I had a little food with my meds and took a few bites each night of the lovely dinners we received.  Added note for those of you who go through this: I took two Colace every day for about 6 days and drank lots of water.

**No lifting, baths, hot tub, or sex. (I still have my cervix, but it was stitched up and needs to heal.)

Photo Above:  Leslie, her husband, and two girls grinning for the camera. Leslie thinks this picture was taken at the Balboa Peninsula in California. She loved going to the arcade there as a kid because you take a ferry from Balboa Island.

Photo Below:  Leslie, her husband, and her youngest daughter.  Leslie’s oldest daughter is now away at college.

Leslie Lockwood has been married for twenty-four years and is the mother of two teenage daughters. She’s a southern California girl who’s been in Oregon for the past eighteen years.  Leslie teaches music to preschoolers. She loves her book club, girls’ night out, and trips to the beach.
Menopause

Hysterectomy: Leslie’s Story Part One– Before the Surgery

When blog reader Leslie Lockwood told me she was scheduled for a hysterectomy, I asked her to record her experience for Friend for the Ride.  She’s presenting her story in three parts.  This post recounts the symptoms and medical advice that led to the surgery.  Thanks, Leslie!

As I look ahead to a few days from now, I’m really not sure how I feel.  You see, I am about to part with my uterus.  I guess I’m ok with that.  No more bleeding or spotting 15 days a month….  No more pain (endometriosis)…

Until recently I thought I would never have a hysterectomy.  They were for people of my mom’s generation, or people with health issues.  Not me, I was pretty sure I’d be hanging on to it forever.  But here I am today, about to have surgery soon, and  I am pretty sure that  I am in denial about this whole experience.

Here what lead me to make the decision:  Until the last few years, I was a pretty healthy person, with rarely even a cramp each month.  Then one day I had this pain that I thought surely must be appendicitis; it turned out to be a ruptured ovarian cyst (talk to anyone who has had one, the most excruciating pain ever).  I had it happen twice before the doctor scheduled a laparoscopic procedure and took out my ovary.

When they took my ovary, they discovered that I had lots and lots of endometriosis.  Interestingly, right before I had my ovary removed, I had this pain in my side and shooting down my leg– this has continued every month for 1-2 weeks.  I often have bleeding or spotting accompanying this.  But I did not want a hysterectomy, so I decided to try and deal with it.

When it wasn’t getting any better ,they put me on The Pill.  I continued to have bad pain and yet another ruptured ovarian cyst (on my remaining ovary).  I have figured out that constant pain is exhausting!  I was tired all. the. time.  (Me, the diagnosed insomniac since age 10, has to take a nap each and every day.)  So after my last trip to the ER for the ruptured cyst, I went to my doctor.  He basically said to me, “It’s time.”

Now that the time has come, I have tons of questions:  *Will they take my ovary?  *Will they put me on estrogen?  What will I feel like?  *What will the recovery be like?  Is this really going to happen?  So much is unanswered at this point.

And still, I wonder if this is really what I should do?  I have actually felt ok in the last month and a half since that cyst ruptured. So now what do I do? Do I discount the 2.5 years of pain, bleeding, etc. because the last month has been ok?  Or is it sort of like when you can’t stand your hair, schedule an appointment, and then get tons of compliments (before you even have your hair cut)?

I’m not sure.  Time will tell.

I am hoping and praying that I made the right decision.

*This part really is an uncertainty because the doctor will not know what he has to do until he get in there with the scope and sees how much damage the endometriosis has done.

Photo Above:  Leslie as a baby!

Photo below:  Our guest blogger now.

Leslie Lockwood has been married for twenty-four years and is the mother of two teenage daughters. She’s a southern California girl who’s been in Oregon for the past eighteen years.  Leslie teaches music to preschoolers. She loves her book club, girls’ night out, and trips to the beach.
Life

Guest Post: To My Mom, Who Taught Me Not to Wait (and a Novel Giveaway)

A guest post by writer Janet Fox:

I want to write this post about my mom.

She died young. Correction – she died at an age that I now consider too young to die, since she was only fifteen years older than I am now when she died. And frankly, fifteen years is going to go by like – click – that.

She didn’t have the chance to be the grandmother I longed for her to be for my son. She didn’t have the chance to see my first (or second…) novel published. She died suddenly and without warning, and as in all things in my life, she taught me something very important.

She taught me not to wait.

Among her papers as I was sorting them – because my father couldn’t – I found a pile of unpublished children’s stories. They were sweet, old-fashioned, lyrical. I read them and thought, huh. These are wonderful. What if I could do that. What if I could write something like that. What if…

I’ve always been a cautious person. Wait and see. Take it one step at a time. Consider the plan. But when Mom died she gave me the courage to open up my creative heart and let it all pour out. There’s no question that my first novel was written for and about her (a girl loses her mother, tries to find her, and instead finds herself).

In fact, all my writing now is about reaching out to my mother, finding the girl to woman connection, letting myself grow into the woman that she would admire.

I’m burning with stories now, stories that I must get down on paper, stories that are bursting to be told, characters that are reaching for the light, and this is all because she taught me to let them out, taught me not to wait.

What if we didn’t wait? What if we never waited for the right moment, the settled-downness, the quiet? What if we didn’t wait for the nudge of death to drive us to action? What if, as women, we shifted into the fullness of our lives right from the start?

If you are a cautious person, the time is now. Don’t wait. Take my mom’s lesson to heart. Find your stories and let them pour out like honey. Give them to the page, to your daughters, to the world.

Give them to yourself.

And, to my mom, I give my sweetest thanks.

Janet Fox is the author of award-winning books for children and young adults. FAITHFUL (Speak/Penguin Young Readers 2010), set in Yellowstone National Park in 1904, is a YALSA Best Fiction for YA nominee and an Amelia Bloomer List pick, 2011. FORGIVEN (Speak 2011), set in 1906 San Francisco during the great earthquake, is a Junior Library Guild selection 2011, and a 2012 WILLA Literary Awards Finalist.

Her most recent novel, SIRENS (Speak 2012), is set in 1925 New York and is told from alternating points of view of two girls who must confront a gangster and uncover dark secrets.

Janet is a former high school English teacher and received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults in 2010 (Vermont College of Fine Arts). Janet lives in Bozeman, Montana but you can also find her at www.janetsfox.com and   http://about.me/janetfox.  She blogs at: www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com.

Giveaway:  For a chance to win a copy of Sirens, simply enter a comment by December 5 saying you’d like to win.  I’m giving away two copies!

Menopause

Sleep: A Technique to Try

If I toss and turn at night, Cliff sometimes says, “I can hear your brain working.”

Wow, those must be pretty good ears.

Then he adds, “Just stop thinking and go to sleep.”

STOP THINKING??

Sometimes, it’s big thinking:  This is the first time I’ve  had a recall on a mammogram.  What exactly did the nurse say again?

Sometimes, it’s little thinking:  Should I top the banana pudding with whipped cream or meringue?

Sometimes, it’s grumpy thinking: With a broken furnace and a crown to be drilled, tomorrow is not going to be great day.

Sometimes,it’s happy thinking:  Should I get the old toys down from the attic now or wait until the baby is a little older?

But NO THINKING

In the middle of the night?

Not easy.  No sir.

In the last few months, I’ve been experimenting with a form of no thinking.

I call it “calm thinking,” for want of a more creative term.

My new rule is I have to think calm, nighttime thoughts.

It seems to be working, some of the time at least.  I mostly focus on gratitude– I’m in a nice bed, pleasant covers, stars are shining in the sky, goodnight moon- that sort of thing.

Give calm thinking  a try. I’d love to know if it works for you!

PS: And it may be that calm thinking is actually working because my wide-awake menopausal hormones have calmed down a bit.

Good news for those of you in the middle of the roller coaster ride. There’s less rattle and clatter at the end.

The photo is a BIG headline from the Durham Herald to get fans thinking about the upcoming Duke and Carolina basketball season. Go Blue Devils!

 

Menopause

Pickle Blessings!

Last year, soon after I started blogging, I wrote a post about letting go, about how menopause and midlife were encouraging me to give up on activities and goals and commitments  that aren’t working for me.

You can read the pickly post here:  

In the post, I announced my decision after 26 years, to give up on winning the pickle counting contest at the North Carolina State Fair.

But, I added, my husband Cliff had not given up.

And it’s a good thing

Because this year,

HE WON!

He doesn’t remember how many pickles he guessed were in the jar, but whatever number he put down  was the RIGHT ONE!

So this Thanksgiving, 

As I count my blessings,

I’m thankful for that shiny jar

Of floating baby dills and for the

Mount Olive Pickle Company,

Who sent the winner’s letter to our house,

And most of all, I’m thankful for a world,

Where people who love pickles,

Never, ever, give up.

Happy Thanksgiving, and if you’re in our direction, come on over the river and through the woods and stop on by for a taste from the winner’s prize:

PICKLES!

Menopause

Menopause: Not Tonight Dear–The Silent Symptom

Watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond is one of my favorite ways to goof off.

Do you remember this one?

Marie takes a sculpture class and proudly presents her creation to Raymond and Debra.

They, along with brother Robert, are aghast. The sculpture reminds them of, well, they really don’ t want to say. Afraid to tell Marie what they are thinking, they keep their impressions silent.

And that was my Friend for the Ride way to get brave enough to speak up, to help break the silence, about the unspoken subject of vaginal atrophy.

The recent Partners’ Survey, sponsored by Novo Nordisk, revealed that many women, and their partners, are reluctant to talk about this problem.

The results of the survey were presented in October at the meeting of the North American Menopause Society by Dr. James A. Simon. Here’s part of a summary sent out by Novo Nordisk:

Vaginal atrophy is a chronic condition that affects the vagina and the surrounding tissues during and after menopause due to the declining levels of estrogen.

Vaginal atrophy may negatively impact one’s quality of life due to symptoms like:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Vaginal irritation
  •  Itching in and around the vagina
  •  Pain and bleeding during intercourse
  • Vaginal soreness
  •  Painful urination

Up to 75 percent of menopausal women may experience vaginal dryness, a symptom of vaginal atrophy.

Yet despite the high prevalence, only 25 percent of sufferers will seek medical help. Vaginal atrophy is still considered a taboo subject, and many women are too embarrassed to discuss the condition, even with their healthcare professionals.

It is so sensitive that 70 percent of women say their healthcare professionals have only rarely or never raised the subject with them.

Women also do not discuss the condition with their healthcare professionals because they think vaginal atrophy is a natural part of growing older and that nothing can be done about it.

Me again:

Let’s break the silence and talk to one another, our partners, and our healthcare providers about vaginal atrophy. Some good remedies, including local estrogen therapy and systemic hormone therapy, are available.

This site enables you to check out your symptoms and find advice on how to speak to your doctor:  www.myvaginalsymptoms.com

In another episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Marie and Frank shock the rest of the Barones when they reveal that their romantic life, despite their age, is hot!

Perhaps Marie spoke up to her doctor.

Is it your turn?

Watch part of the episode here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpppJ5ecnW8

Celebrations, Children, Grandchildren, Grandmother, Grandparents

Guest Post: I Wish I Had an App!

A guest post from writer AND grandmother, Chris Rosen:

Writing a blog was my revenge for being left with an empty nest and moving over 300 miles south to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was also a way to deal with becoming another type of mother – the Mother-of-the Bride, who rapidly turns into a Mother-in-Law, and then wonder of wonders, a Grandmother. My daughter is the Bride (an ER doctor), her husband is the Groom (an Internal Medicine doctor),and my husband is Bob (another ER doctor). Hospitals are their turf, and this is our story.

Bob and I lost the Bride and the Groom in the hospital parking garage. Well we didn’t really lose them, since we have smart cells and can always find them again, wherever they are. Except for maybe a Caribbean island, our collective happy visualization spot!

We were headed for Labor and Delivery; we picked up the happy couple on another subterranean floor and as we’re going up in the elevator, I repeat “BJ,” maybe a touch too loud. That is where we will presumably find my car again, once we are grandparents. Basment level, row “J.” Except for a small giggle from the back of the elevator, the Bride turns to me and says, “Don’t you have that App?” “What App?” I say.

It seems there is an App that will locate your car for you when you are stuck in an airport or mall parking lot, or even a covered, cavernous hospital garage. Now not only will I never get lost, I’ll never lose my car again! “Interesting,” I said, “Have they created an App that will tell me – “‘Why am I here?’” The whole elevator had a smile about that one. But really, besides the existensial question in general, why do we need grandparents? Let me count the ways.

To Cook! Your children will be busy, very busy with a newborn. Cooking anything will be appreciated. I lucked out cause the Groom does dishes.

To Shop! Of course you need to shop for the groceries to cook, which should include all your daughter’s favorite things…avocados, peaches, grapefruit juice. Don’t forget the new Dad, he needs beer and beef. You won’t go wrong. And be prepared to go on special hunting expeditions for things like Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads – amazing things! Spell it out on your Notes App, L-A-N-S-I-N-O-H. ps Target carries them.

To Burp, Rock and Change the Occasional Diaper! Be prepared. Dads are way more involved than they were in our day. So the actual baby nurse duties will be minimal with a nursing Mom and today’s Dad.

To Give Nursing Advice! Who needs a doula when you have a Grandmother? Well, maybe we did. It’s been over 30 years since I nursed the Bride and for some strange reason this hospital doesn’t employ Lactation Counsultants on weekends. I had a 1-800 La Leche number, and now I have a post-menopausal brain that tends to forget the tough times of sleep deprivation and an inverted nipple. Lucky for me, the Bride has a very cooperative baby girl!

To Know When NOT to Give Advice! This can be tricky. I learned a long time ago never to give anyone advice unless they asked for it. But when it’s your daughter, and your brand new grand daughter you may start to feel just like one of those crazy, old women who would constantly tell you what to do when you were a new mom. “What do you mean the nurse recommends not putting lotion on her bottom?” “You’re going to swaddle her that tight?” Anyway, try very hard to keep most of your opinions to yourself – unless asked. My daughter said she only sees babies in the ER who are either dehydrated or febrile and septic, so I trust her to know what to do in most every circumstance. Still, that leaves a wide range of normal neonate behavior, right? “Wait, you want the dog to lick her face?”

To Take Pictures. My phone has like 4 or 5 picture Apps! Here’s the thing, you get to take pictures as much as you want! And you get to catch those unlikely times with the whole new family. For instance, I think this looks like a soap opera. First time nursing in the recovery room: nurse at the computer, BFF and colleague Kristyn comes in, off camera are many of their friends who are residents…all crying. And bam, the Groom turns. What is he thinking?

I  would be thinking, “Should I use my John S Lens, Blanko Noir film/no flash for the next Hipstamatic print  I want to upload on Instagram?”

But, later I will tell the new parents to forget all those Apps that help you keep track of wet diapers and feedings. To  relax, disconnect from the internet, cuddle and play together and try to rest. Because this is the greatest gift we grandparents can give; the gift of time to enjoy the new baby

Chris Rosen divides her time between Charlottesville, VA and Nashville, TN where her new granddaughter was just born. A contributor to Tangerine Tango, she was a columnist for the Two River Times in Red Bank, NJ. She also wrote for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She has been a UVA Community Scholar and is currently working on a book about her Mother, The Flapper. Check out her blog, Mountain Mornings.  She poses below with baby Caroline Rose.